Saturday, May 27, 2006

Amex mulls Islamic credit card in Middle East
By Arif Sharif, Staff Reporter

Dubai: American Express, the world's biggest charge card issuer, is evaluating the possibility of launching an Islamic credit card and sees cash as its biggest competitor in the Middle East, a top company official said yesterday.
Trevor Stokes, Chief Executive of American Express' Travel Related Services for the Middle East and North Africa, told Gulf News the Islamic card was one of several products the bank was evaluating to better serve local consumers.
"Our charge card is virtually a Sharia-compliant credit card and we could easily adapt that to fit the needs of a Sharia-compliant card," said Stokes, in Dubai to attend a credit card industry event.
Stokes said the biggest challenge for the credit card industry was to lure an increasing number of consumers to use credit cards instead of cash although a low user base meant there was potential for rapid growth in the future.
"The future of the credit card industry is indeed rosy because cash is really historic. If you look a the US now, some 40 per cent of consumer transactions are settled by credit cards and it won't be long when there would be a charge on cash payments. In the Middle East though there is a discount on cash payments and that is not a great help for the card industry."
American Express' credit card business in the Middle East, which spans some 18 countries, is expected to treble at the end of 2006 from three years ago while the number of its card users is poised to double.
Growth prospects
Growth will be helped by the fact that average spends on American Express cards is nearly three or four times that on a Visa or a Master Card. Besides, some 20,000 new merchant establishments have signed up in the past three years to accept American Express cards.
Stokes said there were some 71 million American Express cards in circulation globally but declined to say how many it had issued in the Middle East. Overall, the number of card users in the Middle East was growing at about 30 per cent a year, although from a small base, he said.

Trevor Stokes
Chief Executive of American Express Travel Related Services for the Middle East and North Africa.

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